A week in Coniston

We’re just back from a week’s holiday in the Lake District, staying on the shore of Coniston Water. We re-booked the cottage we stayed in last year – Wetherlam on the Tent Lodge estate.

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It was a cosy cottage, part of a converted farm house, a good size for the two of us. It’s set back from the North East Shore of Coniston Water and the lake and the Coniston fells can be glimpsed through the windows. Step outside into the garden and this was the view.

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A short walk down the drive and we were on the shore of the lake by the side of the estate’s jetty.

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The National Trust’s Gondola stem boat sailed past on the way to and from the Monk Coniston jetty just a hundred metres or so up the lake.

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There are loads of literary and artistic connections. Tennyson honeymooned at Tent Lodge next door where he was visited by Lewis Carroll, Beatrix Potter owned the nearby Monk Coniston Estate (now under the custody of the National Trust), Ruskin lived less than a mile south at Brantwood, W G Collingwood (Ruskin’s secretary and biographer and a scholar, writer and painter) lived even closer at Lanehead where he entertained Arthur Ransome who was taught to sail by Collingwood’s children on the lake. Wordsworth and Coleridge no doubt passed by at some time!

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Coniston is a pleasant small village catering for both locals and walkers and tourists. But it’s a lot less touristy than Bowness, Ambleside and Grasmere. It’s less accessible. It was originally a real working village housing copper miners and quarry workers. The former workers’ cottages, now mainly converted to holiday homes, cling to the sides of the fells. It was formerly in Lancashire before the Local Government reorganisation of 1974 transferred it, with the rest of “Lancashire over the sands” into the newly created county of Cumbria.

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There’s a couple of grocery shops, well stocked for their size, other shops and amenities and a number of decent pubs. There’s even a good restaurant, Steam, which had opened since our visit last year. Telecommunications aren’t great. It was difficult to get a phone signal sometimes and forget picking up the Internet on your phone. Internet access in the cottage was patchy to say the least. But in many ways that was an attraction as it meant I could legitimately cut myself off from work for the week.

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The weather was mixed, with showers on most days, but there were no days of continuous rain and the sun came out from time to time. But the temperature was low for the time of the year and on occasions it almost felt like autumn rather than the height of summer.

As we’d seen most of the main attractions in the vicinity during our holiday last year, we decided to take it relatively easy, with only a few excursions out in the car. The cottage location was a good starting point for walks and most of the time when we wanted to go into Coniston village we left the car behind – it was only a 30 minute walk away. I had taken a stack of books in case of rain but didn’t end up doing as much reading as I’d expected as we were able to get out and do things including three longish walks (building up to the most adventurous on our last day), several shorter ones, a country show, a visit to one of Wordsworth’s homes, a boat trip on the lake and an outdoor theatre performance. So lots to write up to relive an enjoyable week away.

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